At stake is not just the core purpose to count everyone in the country, but congressional representation, with over $800 billion in funding allocations
June 3, 2019

John Avlon's Reality Check takes a look at the new information in the Supreme Court case of the citizenship census question.

"So it's the first Monday of June. You know what that means? No, not the first day of summer vacation. It's the first day the Supreme Court opinions could come down. On the docket this year are cases that could have major implications for the direction of our democracy, from whether the population will be accurately counted in the upcoming census, to whether the rigged system of redistricting will finally be reined in. So yeah, it's kind of a big deal.

"We've told you about Commerce Secretary Ross's cringeworthy testimony where he tried to explain just why the Trump administration wanted to add a question about citizenship. The problem is, he appeared to have been caught in a lie. Ross said the new question was a request from the Justice Department, but documents show that he was really responding to immigration hardliners. Experts at the Census Department were against the idea from jump, estimating it would lead to millions of people being undercounted. And at stake is not just the census's core purpose to count everyone in our country, but congressional representation, with over $800 billion in funding allocations. The Trump administration argued it's motivated solely by the concern of the proper enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

"If that seems a bit off-brand, wait until you see the new information that dropped last week by the daughter of a recently deceased conservative strategist named Thomas Hofeller. Now, he specialized in advising Republicans how to draw district maps to maximize partisan advantage, including the North Carolina map declared unconstitutional because it was a blatant racial gerrymandering. It turns out that he had done a study showing that counting only adult citizens for redistricting purposes would be, quote, advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites. It was unworkable without a citizenship question being added to the census. A Trump official said that's exactly what Hoffeller advised them to do.

"The Supreme Court likely made its decision without this crucial question showing that the White House argument was essentially a lie. Keep in mind they'll be overturning the opinion of lower court judges, one of whom said, quote, 'It threatens the very foundations of our democratic system.' Also vindicating the strategy of appealing to the Supreme Count with the hope that a conservative majority will provide a green light, even on false pretexts, that the ends justifies the means. This case is so high stakes in part because of its impact on partisan redistricting.

"On the Friday before Memorial Day, the Supreme Court called a halt on two court-ordered redrawing of districts in Ohio and Michigan without explanation. But it may indicate the results of a major redistricting decision that's also due to come down this month. These two cases could lead to even more hyperpartisan polarization and further deepen the distrust of institutions in our democracy. And that's a reality check."

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